Yule and Midwinter is approaching, and for me and my crew this means a time of fires; of family; of torches held high on the mountain peaks.
It’s a time for me when my pagan traditions are brought into stark relief in many ways, as the Yule of me and mine is not the Yule of the rest of the world, and follows the channels of the blood, not the pages of “the Book.”
It’s a time for the thunder god, Thor, and to set a place in the house for the ancestors – to welcome them around the blazing fire and let them breathe the cold night air again with our lungs, and to speak with our tongues and join in the fellowship and mirth of their offspring.
I considered all this yesterday as my calloused hands wrapped around the familiar curve and knurling of my favorite barbell, and I thought about how much the idea of strength itself is integral to this life, and the religious worship of strength – that which is “good” being power increasing and resistance being overcome.
I thought about how much of my life has been dedicated to the idea and practice of strength – not simply of a physical nature, but what entails strength for a man as a son, as a brother, as a husband, and as a father.
As my youth finally fades, and a few more gray hairs are setting in, and some of the madness of my younger years with it, I wear a hammer more often – not because I am deviating from a path, but because I see my life as an expression of this path’s natural progression:
From the koryos, and the mannerbund of the young men – outsider and outlaw, war-mongering and performing the rituals of ecstasy and violence, to the position of the older man within the tribe. One of balance and stability, experience, structure, laws, and defense of not only the individuals within the tribe, but defending the structure and fundamental aspects of the tribe from the individual who would enter and create chaos or upheaval.
As a bachelor and a fighter, a biker, a traveling musician, howling spells at the moon as blood ran from wounds and runes ripped from my throat, deep in the grip of fungal spirits, Odin was my god, and I was Odin, no distinction between my idea of him and my retelling of it with my own life as blood-spattered canvas.
As an older man and a husband, a wrestler, an experienced and respected man in the tribe, and now as a father, some of those doors, while not closed to me, are simply not opened often.
Before, my spiritual moments of awe and awakening came as I clawed for them in the deep places with my fingers to the bone, extremes and excess, near-death experiences, searching behind the ruins I’d made of myself to glean some new power or perceived edge.
Today, my son grasped the hammer around my neck as I held him and looked at how strong and how handsome he is, and he smiled at me, and touched my chest and called me “papa” and put his head on my shoulder and I felt something in my world had changed again forever in some way that I don’t yet really understand but know is of a kind of blood magic more powerful than anything I’ve ever done with a knife.
My life is given over to the providing for and the defense of house and home, and my younger brothers in the Wolves and the family and community we have built. A massive duty and honour intermingles and rests its weight across shoulders that have been prepared for it.
The years that have gone by have made me understand that. That the honour comes with a sacrifice of time and the freedom and carefree nature of youth. The lost sleep over worry and concern, and the constant wondering whether we’ve done anything right at all, but knowing whatever it was, it needed to be done, one way or the other.
Tears have welled up in my eyes many times this year from the sometimes overwhelming nature of the errors I’ve made in foolishness and stubborn, misdirected pride, but they’re not tears of despair. They’re tears of sorrow, but of gratitude that I have been given another day to be stronger. More powerful. More capable. To face the same situation again, and to make a better choice. To do more for my family. To be a better father daily to my son, to whom I want to be the best example possible of what a man can be, and should be.
As the years pass by, and my life gets heavier with the weight of them, and the experiences I’ve had, my understanding and practice of paganism gets more and more simple.
Honour your blood. Tell the truth. Do what’s right.
Or: strong limbs, pure hearts, actions matching words.
My heart is heavy from all the hardship and heartache along the way.
It’s heavy, but so is an anvil.
The sound of the hammer ringing on it is the sound of my heartbeat, still hammering, still strong, still loyal to the gods of the red blood of my people.
Loyal to the red thunder.
To the red god.
I wish you all a powerful Yule season with those who truly matter.
Love them, be loyal to them, and defend them at any cost – this is what it means to be a follower of the Red God.